Lakenheath homes plan refused for its affects on aspects from rare plants to village school

The site between Broom Road and Maidscross Hill, Lakenheath.
Map: Googlemaps
The site between Broom Road and Maidscross Hill, Lakenheath. Map: Googlemaps
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A plan for 110 houses next to a nature reserve, that has also been criticised for its potential impact on roads and schools, has been refused planning permission.

Officers have recommended Forest Heath District Council’s development control committee refuse the application for the homes on land between Broom Road and Maidscross Hill, Lakenheath, because they say it is contrary to so many planning policies.

The officers put it before the committee because they felt it raises ‘complex planning issues of national and international importance’.

The plan was originally registered in October 2014 for 132 homes on the 4.3 hectare site, but the number of homes was reduced in August 2016 to 110, though additional reports and studies were then required.

It was one of seven undecided applications for more than 2,300 homes around Lakenheath, over whose cumulative impact the parish council has raised concerns.

Natural England said in 2014 that the site is next to the Maidscross Hill site of special scientific interest (SSSI) and local nature reserve, with its rare plants and ground nesting birds, and within 1.5km of the internationally recognised Breckland stone curlew special protection area (SPA).

In 2016 it recognised that the site would have little impact on the SPA but said mitigation was needed to prevent impact on the SSSI.

It is worried about the impact of recreation and dog walking on the site and warns that the increased cat population could hit rabbit numbers which could lead to the heathland becoming overgrown with scrub and bracken.

The council’s trees, landscape and ecology officer points out that the site acts as a buffer between existing housing and the SSSI and says that the layout ‘does not provide meaningful and usable open space to serve the new community’ which would increase pressure on the SSSI.

Suffolk County Council says the village’s primary school is at capacity, it is trying to locate sites for a new one and it calls for a £586,674 contribution to a new school.

Lakenheath Parish Council has objected to the plan since 2014. Its latest submission criticises the design, loss of agricultural land, closeness to RAF Lakenheath, poor public transport and impacts on education, health facilities, traffic and the SSSI.

In advising refusal officers said it was contrary to adopted and emerging development plans and to planning polices covering design, ecology, surface water drainage, tree retention, education, and the impact of aircraft noise.